Many up-and-coming artists realize that exposure matters. They gamely create social media profiles and plug away at promoting themselves and their releases. Of course, the Internet remains crowded with other artists trying to do the same thing.
They may hire a branding consultant like Jordan Kurland or attempt a small tour to play in front of club audiences. This process only gets them small audiences though, typically not enough to start a meaningful word-of-mouth buzz.
Of course, you do not start out playing SXSW or NXNW, or Castle Donnington. You start small and work your way up.
While most people can only name the top five US festivals, about 200 festivals exist with an attendance of 10,000 individuals or more. Of those, 80 festivals get categorized as small festivals by the music industry. That means an attendance of about 10,000 music fans.
While you already need a rather significant following and existing press coverage to land a showcase at SXSW or NXNW, you can secure a spot on the bill of a small festival or a micro-festival while just getting started.
Here are a few ideas to get you started. Some festivals cater to a variety of music since they try to accommodate diverse local or regional interests. Such is the case of the Norman Music Fest in Norman, OK, also the location of The University of Oklahoma. The performers at this festival range from country and Red Dirt to indie rock to punk to neo-punk. A few comedy musicians have played this fest, too.
Bluegrass musicians should check out Charleston, SC’s Charleston Bluegrass Festival. The city known best for its international Spoleto Festival also caters to bluegrass.
The city of Ft. Worth, TX probably makes you think of country music, but it hosts the newest indie-rock festivals. Fortress Festival in the Cultural District provides a waterfront stage with a standing room only audience.
If you play in a country band you might land a spot on the festival bill of Oklahoma native Toby Keith’s Florida music festival. The Suwanee River Jam in Live Oak, FL provides you the opportunity to play in front of 10,000 country fans.
The diverse festival bills of classic rock, Americana, and reggae at the Redondo Beach Festival in Redondo, CA provide opportunities for many musicians. The beachfront stage and gorgeous ocean views provide two other reasons to play this festival.